The focus of the expert presentations was sustainability from an environmental, economic and social perspective. These talks once again highlighted the fact that the digitalization of joining technology is an incredible tool for making production in the automotive industry more efficient and resource-conserving. The conference in Sattledt, Austria, was attended by around 130 participants from 16 countries, all of whom relished the opportunity to network, seizing the chance to exchange ideas and experiences in a relaxed atmosphere.
Sustainability Through Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence
In the opening speech, Rüdiger Daub from the Technical University of Munich and Fraunhofer IGCV, made it clear that digitalization is a key tool for ensuring the efficient use of resources in production. Process monitoring, automated quality control, predictive maintenance and assistance systems for employees are just some of the digital solutions that can help companies to become more economically sustainable and, on the other hand, help to achieve the environmental goals that we as a society have set ourselves.
In his keynote speech “AI in (Automotive) Production – Where Is It Going?!”, Oliver Riedel from the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools & Manufacturing Units at the University of Stuttgart broached important points such as how AI can provide enormous relief in complex processes involving vast quantities of data. However, he also considered the cases in which conventional statistical methods are helpful. In any case, he assumes that people will continue to play an important role in the future, in order to describe processes, develop models and algorithms, interpret the results and optimize processes accordingly.
Ecological Footprints in Welding Technology
Andreas Pittner, team leader for arc welding at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin, demonstrated how calculating ecological footprints might work for welding processes. Comprehensive life cycle assessments (LCAs) are becoming increasingly important in industry in view of the targets for reducing CO2 emissions. They are an important tool for characterizing welding production chains, and they make it possible to define the environmental impact of welding processes and identify potentials for reducing the consumption of energy, flux-cored wire, and shielding gas. These findings are used to assess a product’s ecological footprint as early as the planning and design phase.
Sustainability Is Profitability
Poldi Heidrich from Kuka Deutschland GmbH pointed out that sustainability requires us to have an overview of the entire system. He illustrated how integrating robots in the future may help to reduce energy consumption and thus minimize the carbon footprint in production lines. The presentations by voestalpine, Siemens, BMW, Audi and—last but not least—by our very own Fronius provided further practical examples of how companies are increasingly gaining the competitive advantage by focusing on environmental and social sustainability.
Alexander Brendel-Schauberger and Bernhard Freiseisen from the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences highlighted how relevant the social component of sustainability is in the VUCA world. Drawing on the results of an empirical study of B2B companies, they explained which organizational framework conditions are important for companies to be able to survive in a dynamic environment in the long term. The key components here are decentralized decision-making and having qualified employees who are able to identify with both the company’s mission and the activities it carries out. In times of increasing shortages of skilled workers, there is a growing trend of authentic action tipping the scales when companies come to recruit.